I’m Paul Herron, a full-stack developer and technical manager.
I focus mainly on back-end development with tools like Symfony
and devops with tools like Docker

One year with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

by Paul Herron on 06 April 2014

Olympus OM-D E-M5

I’ve now been using my Olympus E-M5 for a full year. It’s a truly excellent camera and even now, one year on, I haven’t seen any other camera that would tempt me away from using the E-M5. For me it’s just an ideal combination of image quality, size, lens options, build quality and cost.

Image quality is stunning, particularly when using a prime lens such as the Olympus 45mm f1.8 or the Panasonic 20mm f1.7. Images don’t look quite so sharp with the 12-50mm kit lens that comes with the camera, but on the plus side the lens is very versatile: zoomed out it’s ideal for taking wide shots such as interiors, it’s got a handy macro mode and it also has the same stunning build quality of the E-M5 itself.

As compared to my old Canon DSLR, battery life is significantly shorter on the Olympus, but this is to be expected on the basis that the Olympus has an electronic (as opposed to optical) viewfinder, it has a lovely high-res screen on the back, and it’s running an image stabilization system while the camera is in use. In practice the shorter battery life is of no real consequence to me; during heavier use I might take around 100 photos a day, but the battery will still last 3 days or more at this rate. I also keep a third-party battery with me as a backup, but so far I haven’t actually needed this.

One aspect that did surprise me was the fact that focus regions are squares, as opposed to on my old Canon digital SLR camera where each focus region was a dot. I assume this is to do with the Olympus’ contrast detection autofocus system, where unlike the Canon which could focus on a single point, the Olympus needs to gather a larger area of the image to do the contrast detection on. This felt strange at first, as with the Canon I’d grown used to the precision feel of a single focus point. For example I’d often train the focus point right on the corner of a subject’s eye. This isn’t practical with the Olympus because even the smallest possible focus area is too large to do that accurately with. However, the Olympus does have a face detection mode which seems to work well in this use case, and I can’t recall any other scenarios where the lack of a tiny focus point has caused problems.

Build quality is truly exceptional, and after one year the camera still looks like new. It’s taken a few knocks without problems, and its weather sealing has been tested in snow and rain, again with no problems.

It is an expensive camera and I did consider some of the cheaper alternatives before buying. There are Panasonic models available, for example, that whilst not having all of the advanced features of the Olympus, were broadly of the same spec for significantly less money. Ultimately though I’m glad I paid the extra for the Olympus. The way everything comes together with the Olympus is spectacular and it really does have a premium feel that seems to put it in a different league to anything else I considered.

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